Penn Cove Road realignment gets the green light

Construction is set to begin on a portion of Penn Cove Road that will soon close to the public.

Despite some concerns about weather, construction is set to begin on a portion of Penn Cove Road that will soon close to the public.

Island County Engineer Ed Sewester led a presentation last week during a regular meeting of the county commissioners about the upcoming closure of the road, which is scheduled to begin March 6. The one-mile portion of Penn Cove Road between Gabrielson Avenue and Monroe Landing Road has been near the site of landslides in the past and this project will realign the road, moving it six feet inwards.

Only local traffic and emergency vehicles will be able to access the road during the 30-day closure. Officials acknowledged the project could be delayed if an archaeologist on site makes historically significant findings underground, or if Central Whidbey is hit by storms.

Lee Roof, a resident of Penn Cove Road, expressed concerns about the bluff actively eroding and the road ending up in the water at some point in the future. He pointed out that historically, March and April have not been months of dry weather in the Pacific Northwest and urged the county to postpone the project until the summer.

Sewester said this timeframe was picked after the award of the $497,000 contract and staff have since been watching the weather patterns, which have been a little drier. When the commissioners voiced further weather-related concerns, he assured them that starting this month will allow the project to get ahead of the regular construction season. The construction schedule will be adjusted, however, if there is a lot of rain to contend with. Drainage takes about a week to install and will be put in before moving the road.

The project has been discussed since 2019. Commissioner Melanie Bacon, upon seeing pictures of the area, said she was “appalled” that the county hasn’t done anything about it sooner.

“If the new storm comes through, well then we’re not moving that road,” Sewester said. “We leave it the way it’s sitting right now. We don’t want to open it up and expose it if it’s really bad weather.”

The commissioners unanimously approved the Penn Cove Road stabilization realignment project.